Taking the Angst Out of Exotic Vacations

Posted on by in Point-to-Point

So many agents I visit around the country seem afraid to sell what they perceive as “exotic” destinations to their clients.  They always come up with lots of don’ts and can’ts on why their customers aren’t taking (or don’t want to take) more adventurous trips.

I think the main reason more agents don’t branch away from selling traditional vacations and getaways is a fear of selling what they don’t know.  I don’t know if there’s a fancy name for that—like fear of clowns (coulrophobia) or fear of chickens (alektorophobia). But it sure is easier to come up with reasons why you “can’t” or your clients  “won’t” than actually branching out and learning about new destinations.

Here are my responses to common objections that I often hear in the field:

“My client’s can’t afford to go there”  

Chances are a lot of them can afford it.  If you’re selling high-end, weeklong Disney vacations in Florida or California, you do realize there are some really terrific safaris that your clients can take for roughly the same cost?  For example, there are trips to South Africa that come in at around US$3,000 including air – and your clients won’t be slumming it.

There seems to be a misconception among a lot of people in the travel industry that only wealthy clients can travel to exotic destinations. That may have been true 20 years ago, but is no longer true. “You don’t have to be Brad & Angela to have a super vacation in Africa,” says Marie Friede of African Profile Safaris in Namibia. And Marie should know, as her company has flown celebrities around several times. Her point is that so many people think that certain kinds of trips are out of their reach and that simply isn’t always the case.

Depending on the budget, there might be compromises such as driving vs. flying around a destination, staying overnight in larger, more moderately priced lodges vs. smaller luxury boutique properties, etc.  Keep in mind that in various national parks around the world, there are a wide range of options. And while accommodations may differ, guests are seeing the same wildlife and scenery.

In Patagonia, the range of overnight properties is vast. Guests can sleep and eat in everything from all-inclusive luxury properties to moderately priced hotels and lodges or even backpack and stay in shared mountain accommodations for hikers.

For instance, four nights at the four-star Hotel Las Torres — located on a private land holding inside Torres del Paine National Park — runs around $565 a night per person all inclusive. This includes transfers from the nearest cities (four to five hours away), three meals a day,  alcoholic beverages and guided excursions in the park.

Want to spend less money discovering Patagonia? There are budget hotels just outside of the park that offer day trips to the same places. Or do what thousands of visitors do each year and backpack Torres del Paine with Fantastico Sur.

In addition to its luxury flying safaris around Namibia, Botswana and the rest of southern Africa, APS can also organize self-drive trips that cost a lot less. Their 16-night “Classic Namibia Safari” costs around US$137 per day, per person including rental vehicle, hotels/lodges and most meals. Their 13-night “natural Self-Drive” is even less — just $90 per day per person including vehicles, hotel and two meals a day.

Compare these rates to a high-end Disney vacation and the prices aren’t that different.

“My clients never ask me for those kinds of trips.”

That may be true. But rather than waiting for your clients to volunteer the information, have you ever thought about asking what their dream trips might be?  If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

I often call on agents who tell me they’ve just had long-time clients book an African safari with someone else. Maybe that’s because they didn’t realize you were capable of planning and pulling off that kind of vacation for them because you’ve never mentioned it!

Believe it when I say you’ll have clients for life if you make their dream trips come true.

“Clients are too afraid to go there — the food, the water, the safety factor.”

Granted, exotic trips are not for everyone. Some people will always crave the comfort of the familiar rather than the angst of the unknown. You’ll never win them over on a trekking trip in Chile or a wildlife safari in Kenya.

But for all of those other clients who would love to explore the world but are a bit wary about eating foreign foods or worried about their personal safety, there are lots of ways to put their fears to rest.

For one thing, many exotic and adventure lodges, resorts and hotels serve a standard of food every bit as yummy, healthy and medically safe as anything you’ll find back home. Clients might not want to munch the local spicy noodles or seafood soup. But there are nearly always alternatives that fit any taste — from breakfast omelets and fried eggs to burgers, fries, pizza and pasta dishes. As a matter of fact, pizza might be the world’s most universal food these days. Same with the water: across the board, safari and wilderness lodges around the globe offer their guests absolutely safe water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing their face, etc.

As for the safety factor, consider the fact that the United States doesn’t even make the top 40 Safest Countries in the World, a global survey that measures things like crime and natural disasters. Iceland is number one. And other great adventure destinations like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Bhutan make the list, as do exotic places like Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

If you think Africa’s not safe, consider the fact that leading safari destinations like Namibia, Botswana,  Madagascar and Zambia finish far ahead of the U.S. in the same survey. Or the fact that Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay make the top 40.

The same is true when it comes to healthcare scares in recent years. Certain nations in West Africa may have been plagued by the Ebola virus, but there wasn’t a single case in South Africa, Namibia or Botswana. As a matter of fact, there were more Ebola cases in the U.S. than those three southern African nations combined. And let’s not forget that Florida (home of Disney World) had one of the major outbreaks of Zika virus.

So no more excuses! Find out if your clients crave an exotic vacation. And then do everything you can to make it a reality.


Jane Behrend July 2016 headshot An expert in adventure and wildlife destinations worldwide, Jane Behrend started her own travel marketing company in 1989 after learning the business as an account executive in public relations and advertising sales. In 2008, Jane rebranded her business as Emerging Destinations, a company that represents cool companies in cool places around the globe. She chose the name because her passion is working with areas where tourism is relatively new and still off the beaten path. Contact her at jane@emergingdestinations.com or at emergingdestinations.com.

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